VAR Strikes Back! Is There A Way To Stop It?
VAR has been a major advancement in the world's most famous leagues, however, its adaption to the Premier League 2019/20 season has been full of controversy, and, oh well... EVERYONE HATES VAR IN ENGLAND NOW!!!
VAR was supposed to help make the game more fair in the most polemical actions, but so far, it been a colossal failure on every front; whether slowing the game down or increasing the amount of time we collectively spend arguing over decisions. Sadly, VAR has made worse everything it was supposed to make better.
It's true that VAR was brought into action due to human mistakes, usually made by those "GOD DAMN" referees, so... Sorry guys; VAR is most likely here to stay. So, rather than continuing whining on about why VAR is murdering football, here are 5 ways the system could "actually" be improved, so then everyone (Managers mainly) stop complaining (At least for a while).
Change Offside Interventions to...
How VAR interprets offside is probably the most divisive issue right now. For many, it is an objective decision and therefore irrefutable; we might not like it, they say, but you cannot argue with facts. But... That’s the f***** problem, GOD DAMN IT!
Let's be real: VAR isn’t factual. The frame rate of the video footage used to analyze offsides gives accuracy to within around a 30cm margin of error. So, consequently, any freeze-frame that shows a player’s foot, or more often their armpit, less than 30cms offside is by definition invalid.
What could be the solution to this issue?
The solution, to bring back something of the spirit of the law and an advantage to the attacker, is to change the offside interventions to a naked-eye call, subject to the "clear and obvious" bar after a single line has been drawn from the last defender’s position (Seriously! Can’t you not f***** tell within a few seconds? Then allow it; we quite literally have no way of knowing whether they are onside or offside!).
iPads For Referees?
The argument against using the monitors is that it will unnecessarily slow the game down, however, we are well past that point, am I right? (Don't you dare say "NO").
Surely, if a decision cannot be made within a few seconds by an assistant referee watching on a screen, then it should be passed back to the on-field ref, not least because the Premier League’s insanely high bar for intervention is all about protecting the integrity of the on-field referee.
What better way to keep things simple and limit post-match debate about subjective calls than to make sure almost every decision comes from the same person? Perhaps referees could get an iPad strapped to their body... Doesn't sound like a great idea, Laa-Laa? Tinky-Winky?
3, 2, 1... Time Is Over, Mother f*****!
An example... Erm... OK...
Liverpool comebacks; how the f*** do they force opponents into late errors so often?
Football is a contact sport, and the fair use of physical force has always been a grey area, subject to multiple factors. It makes sense to judge this at the moment when the atmosphere and energy of a situation offer the ref a gut feeling.
This might sound unscientific, but it isn’t; our brains analyze thousands of variables in the moment of experience, even though the complexity of our interpretation is beyond conscious thought. That’s what a gut feeling is. It’s why the rhythm of a football match feels so different in the flesh than behind a TV screen, or why we can sense a bad atmosphere in a room but cannot explain why.
This analysis of the real, living moment is unavailable to VAR referees, which is why they should not be allowed to sink into a vortex of slow-mos. If they can’t get there within 20-30 seconds, it isn’t clear or obvious. We should not be so quick to dismiss the feeling, of speed, force, contact, and intent, felt by the referee in real-time.
4. What the f*** is a high bar!?
Admittedly carrying this one out will be pretty complex. Talking about a "high bar" is far too vague, and while the initial idea was commendable things have gone from one extreme to the other. There were zero overturned decisions in the first 9 rounds of Premier League matches and then, without warning, six calls overturned on week 10.
Of course, finding a way to accurately transcribe when exactly the bar is being met is problematic, but the Premier League needs to try. Currently, it seems as though the decision is subject to the egos and hierarchical power dynamics between the two referees. That obviously has to end. FOR REAL!
5. You know all those things I've just said... MIX THEM ALL UP, FFS!!!
Finally... It isn’t too late to fix it, OK!?
There's going to be a timeline in which we look back on 2019/20 as "The Lost Season" (and which Liverpool won), as the year when the most popular league in the world was overshadowed by a chaotic VAR experiment that was quickly binned.
To obsess over the minutes, from armpits offside to little toes getting stood on, is to give in to the monetization of football and the notion our sport is too important for errors. It is a victory for those who believe results are more important than entertainment, for those who believe emotion is secondary to mathematics.
We all fell in love with football the same way: as children, giving in to pandemonium as the ball rippled the net. That feeling is sacred, but over time, something of its magic will be lost.
So, if this problem doesn't get fixed soon, there's a high chance that Brexit will be resolved long before VAR is executed in the way we all fans want to. Only time will tell.